Electric Cars and the Kindness of Strangers

As if we don’t have enough phobias already, now there is range anxiety, a malady brought on by the electric car. But it’s okay; there is a cure, or rather an app for that.

Studies indicate that many electric car drivers – and those considering joining the ranks – suffer the fear of running out of power and being stranded with a dead battery. A little planning ahead could take the pressure off; there are an estimated 1,400 vehicle charging stations in the United States today and the number is growing. Even though most people drive less than the 100 miles a day allowed by many EV’s, range anxiety remains a logistical – and largely psychological – impediment to widespread electric vehicle adoption by consumers. One 2010 study showed range anxiety even caused EV drivers to modify their driving behaviors, decreasing the travel range and limiting most trips to no more than 25 miles.

Several companies have stepped up to ease the pain. The navigation system in the new electric Ford Focus finds electrical charging stations nearby and can help the driver conserve power by suggesting turning off the A/C or taking a more leisurely route. Google Maps, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently added electric vehicle charging stations to its popular platform, allowing users to search for and pinpoint more than 600 charging stations.

PlugShare, a new free app from Xatori, goes one step further with a personal touch: users can find home charging stations close by, and even list their own as a safe-haven for range-anxious drivers. PlugShare works with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and you don’t need an EV or a special outlet to join. Accounts are customizable; those who wish to share can list their name, number and address as well as what types of energy they have available and where to find it (like the garage). The integrated app uses handy icons to identify private and public standard outlets, EV plugs and charging stations. With just a few clicks, you can identify the nearest charging station, call or text the person who listed it, and get directions. PlugShare hopes to launch a study of the app’s impact on the environment so users can celebrate the positive impact they’re making, not unlike other resource-sharing models like Denver B-cycle (members can track their miles ridden, calories burned, carbon off-set and money saved – and compare their stats to other members of the B-cycle community).

PlugShare’s website even encourages those without EVs to join the community: “Sooner or later an EV owner may ask to charge at your outlet, and you’ll be able to talk to a real person (not a dealer or a salesman) to find out if an EV is right for you!”

With President Obama’s goal to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, community-building applications like PlugShare may bring the unintended benefits: more folks who get to know their neighbors. And, it could mean the end of the EV car salesman as we know him.

Article by Cara Miale, a freelance writer in Denver, appearing courtesy Energy Efficiency Markets.

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6 comments on “Electric Cars and the Kindness of Strangers

We have been using electric cars since 2006. Last year we were lucky enough to be part of the UK Government trial with the Mitsubishi i MiEV. On average we travelled 22 miles per day. If we were planning a longer trip we would have to see if was feasible to use the i MiEV as no charging points were available.

We are now using the TATA EV and on our first day we completed a round trip of 111 miles, knowing that charging was available.

A charging infrastructure allows people to drive further in an electric car and knowing where the charge points is helpful to plan your trip.

I really like this article and what it stands for. However I look forward to better EV solutions whatever they may be. I thought that a multi fueled genset supplying supercapacitors with motors incorporated in the wheels should have been mainstream for decades now just to find out AM General supplied what seemed to be just that in a fleet of special ops vehicles to the original Desert Storm and they were air lifted to and from the op never to bee seen again. So this raises the question really how long ago were there economic versions of hydrocarbon burning vehicles? The person who studied that HumVe best he could indicated that the generator could have been a turbine it was so well covered and quiet. The exhaust was fresh air cooled and diffused through out the major portion of underneath the vehicle the wheel motors as well as most all the components being specially covered to leave no heat signature and the fleet managed twice the fuel economy as the regular diesel HunVe’s over land. Imaging the efficiency improvement in stop and go!

So now that thats old tech and solar powered hydrogen fueling stations are gaining popularity what about the fuel cell generators they supply? Have they gotten environmentally friendly yet with respect to their longevity and recycle ability? I heard yes and that a company in Iceland has a solar powered fueling station able to deliver liquid hydrogen. The fuel cell / electric cars produce water. Will there soon be a fuel cell which takes less electricity to make hydrogen once its heated and running so that it could feed a cold cell producing enough electricity to powre the electric motors and power the gasifying cell? I heard Mazda worked on that prospect. Did they really make a car which practically uses water as a fuel? From what I understand the jury is still out on how much energy the water molecule bond represents verses how much is required to release that bond. Kinda like knocking the keystone out of an arch with a clever blow. Didn’t Stan Myers stumble upon this and pay with his life?

What this article, and most others like it, fail to realize is, there’s an existing solution to range anxiety — battery swap stations, as designed by the smart folks at Better Place. You pull into a station that resembles a car wash, a robot removes your discharged battery, replaces it with a charged battery, and you drive off, in three to five minutes having paid for the charge only. This demands an auto designed to accomodate this technology and the Chevy volt and Nissan Leaf aren’t so designed. Look for the Renault Fluence Z.E. or the new Tessla that will be released this summer. These are truly EVs that the public should invest in. Bottom line: if you can’t swap it, don’t buy it.

Robert Vincin

What is missed in the alternate energy debate is the cost of producing, disposing and replacing such the batteries are in total negative emission reduction. The same applies to wind and solar energy it takes 14 years to pay back the energy to produce, erect, operate and dispose of in their 15 year life cycle. Modern Stoichiometric hydrogen Brown’s gas is the future.

Robert Vincin


Don’t you suppose this was what it was like when the first gas powered cars came out? A horse could keep going and you could stop and feed and water it just about anywhere back then. People tend to let fear rule their lives instead of looking at the reality of what the car is capable of. If I had one of these I would be experimenting with what the range was by going on a round trip that was somewhat near the limit then driving around the block until I found out exactly how far I could get.

I love the unintended effect of EV’s: people getting to know their neighbors! I”m from Lebanon, a country with 300 sunny days a year, We’re overdue for solar EV charging station, and maybe a car like the Canadian Zenn, replacing the fuming vehicles in our streets. I think with Banana Republics on the way out, it’s the sort of thing we’ll soon be able to focus on.

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